It’s as if we’ve sailed into an outrageous French dream.
I perch on the panier of our three-piece foldaway bicycle, holding Harrys shoulders as he negotiates the busy, cobblestone high-street. It’s a seaside town – and French holiday makers saunter along the waterfront looking at the shops and the fishing boats and all the other pretty things. A group of men sitting outside a café yap a few French words as we cycle past, and then chuckle between themselves.
We check in with the French customs and promise
them that we are both well behaved Cornish boys. We buy bread and coffee — then
stretch our legs. From the lookout of a world war two concrete bunker, we spot
a well-formed beach-break, stroking the toes of the rocky Breton Coastline.
The wave is small. Waist high, too small for our shortboards. However, it reminds us of our mission, the underlying motivation behind the entire trip – to surf. Sure, we were also searching for romance, for new experiences, and we wanted to sail. But this adventure at its most primitive was a pursuit of perfect waves. The crumbly little A-frame at the bottom of the cliff was a sign of how close we were to attaining the dream.
In the evening, we get sidetracked. One drink
turns to many, and we find ourselves passengers in a speeding car with two
strangers in the front. The driver’s name is Fox. He holds a cigarette with one
hand, and the wheel with the other. Spiraling tattoos extend upwards towards
his face, from beneath his black leather jacket. His whole manner gives the
impression of a man that should be avoided – but we are drawn to him.
He drives us to a bar 20 minutes outside of
town, pays for one more round and then vanishes. Merci, Fox. We stand
dumbfounded, taking in our surroundings. The revelers huddle round tables,
intoxicated, chattering loudly. By conversing with anyone, we burden them with
the chore of having to speak English, and nobody notices our vulnerability. We
are two meek English boys, lost in the chaos of Friday night debauchery.
The bar closes at two, and we make plans to
hike the seven miles back to Flying Cloud. If we stick up our thumbs,
then maybe we’d be lucky enough to hitch a ride with some early commuter. The
crowd spill out onto the street and continue their roistering under the
flickering hue of a streetlight. As we make tracks towards our floating home,
we find our paths blocked by a stranger.
From her appearance, I guess that she’s our
age. She has a messy French bob and the sense of effortless style. Never have I
been approached by an unfamiliar girl such a bold, straightforward manner.
‘Where are you walking?’ She asks. Her English
is good, yet her accent is still strong.
‘Errr, Cameret’, I reply. I’m slightly thrown
off by her unapologetic tone.
‘You can come with me to my friends house, he’s
having a party. You can stay there too.’
Cans of Stella
We’re led down a narrow alley between a frail
granite wall and a collection of terraced, Breton style cottages. About halfway
along, she turns to the right and opens small wooden door. In the cosy living room, three middle-aged men
sit around a table drinking cans of Stella. All three of them are intoxicated
beyond reason and they erupt into laughter as we enter the room. Before I can
greet our new hosts, a bearded cheek is pushed into my face, as the closest man
jumps up to greet us in the affectionate French way. We shake the hands of the
other two as they stay sat at the table.
Upstairs, the girl shows us a large bed. Wooden
beams follow the pitch of the ceiling, and a Dorma window looks out over a
street of angled slate roofs glowing gently in the first hint of daylight.
Harry flops onto the bed and quickly begins to snore. He has no desire to
pursue female company. He’s too in love with his girlfriend Georgie, who’s
driving out to meet us in a few weeks.
We converse deeply in the light of the Dorma
window until the daylight becomes too much, and we’re compelled to roll into
bed next to Harry.
We planned to leave at seven am, but we wake at
midday. Or host drives us back to Flying Cloud. She stands on the
pontoon, as we untie the lines and yell au revoir! We motor out of the
harbor and around the headland, before raising our sails and pointing south.
This is the start of something epic. Never have I been so free as now. My entire existence is confined in this little floating home, and my only vague plan is to sail south. We had been in France two days, and we’d already been kidnaped and taken on an outrageous adventure. Life has suddenly become more exciting, and I’m anticipating whatever exploits Douarnenez has in store.